Mark Wilson took over in 2013 as group chief executive officer of Aviva, a leading UK insurer with 34 million customers across the world, with 16 million in the UK alone. Mr Wilson has more than 25 years' experience in the insurance industry, notably in south-east Asia.

Insurance was a family tradition - his grandfather and father were in the industry and he got his start at National Mutual where Theresa Gattung - also from Rotorua - was an early mentor and supporter.

Mr Wilson has happy memories of growing up in Rotorua, and still has family living in the Bay of Plenty. He completed a Bachelor of Management Studies at Waikato University, and praises Waikato's business school, which he rates as world class. "Growing up in New Zealand gives you a breadth of experience and exposure to diversity," said Mr Wilson.

National Mutual was bought by French insurer AXA, and Mr Wilson moved to Asia, eventually serving as chief executive of AXA China. He then took over in 2009 as president and chief executive of American International Assurance, the Asian arm of American insurance giant AIG, which ran into problems during the global financial crisis. After preparing AIA for its listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, he left the company in 2010, and went to work for global private equity fund Blackstone, before being recruited by Aviva to his current role as group chief executive officer.


Mr Wilson said he saw himself as a turnaround specialist. He has made his mark at Aviva - a Bloomberg report noted that within four months of joining Aviva, he had announced plans to eliminate 2000 jobs, cut the dividend by 44 per cent, freeze bonuses for 400 managers and sell off or reorganise units. He also initiated the biggest UK insurance deal in 15 years, with Aviva's 5.6 billion (NZ$13.2 billion) purchase of Friends Life Group Plc, completed earlier this year.

He said he had fond memories of New Zealand and loved coming back. He plans to spend this Christmas at the family bach at Waihi Beach. "My favourite spot in the world is walking down Waihi Beach."